This legendary Swedish pop band were the talk of the ‘70s, and their music has managed to remain popular in modern years with vintage disco hits like “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia”.
ABBA won Eurovision one time, although they had entered the international song contest twice, and were successful on their second try. They also entered the Swedish contest called Melodifestivalen, which chooses Sweden’s contestants for the subsequent Eurovision contest.
Let’s look further into their rise to fame, Eurovision attempts, and how they became one of the biggest commercially successful pop and disco groups of all time.
ABBA was formed in 1972 with members Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Fältskog, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.
In 1973, after years of trying to breakthrough on the music scene, they decided to enter to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest 1973. Björn, Benny, and their manager Stig Anderson viewed the contest as the best way to bring awareness to their band, as well as showing everyone their talents as songwriters.
But first, they went through the Swedish talent competition, Melodifestivalen, which determines who gets to go through to Eurovision and represent Sweden. It is held annually, has been running since 1959, and even invited Australians to compete in 2016.
They entered the contest with a song called “Ring Ring”, but unfortunately they only made it to third place.
After their failed attempt to get to the top, Stig decided to begin planning for the contest that would be held the following year.
By the end of ‘73, the group were asked back to Melodifestivalen, but this time for 1974.
Out of several new songs from their repertoire, “Waterloo” was the song that was settled on. Since the ‘74 competition would be held in Brighton, which is on the south coastal area of the UK, they felt inspiration from the emerging wave of glam rock in England.
Eventually the contest came around, and ABBA won over the hearts of their nation, and those worldwide. By this time, they had increased experience with performing on stage, and even sang “Waterloo” in English to appeal to a wider audience.
This was technically their third attempt at Eurovision, considering their performance at the Melodifestivalen, and they ultimately won on the 6th of April 1974.
“Waterloo” started peaking at No. 1 on global charts, including Belguim, Denmark, Ireland, and Switzerland.
After their huge night winning Eurovision, the group partied all night long at The Grand Brighton Hotel in the Napoleon suite.
Now that you’re familiar with their Eurovision story, let’s explore their background as a group, and what led up to their appearance on the show.
In 1966, Benny and Björn crossed paths for the very first time. Both artists were already part of different bands – Benny was with Swedish pop band The Hep Stars and Björn was part of folk group called Hootenanny Singers.
The two men began writing some songs together, and eventually left their bands.
Three years later, they met Agnetha and Anni-Frid.
Before forming as a fully fledged band, they would collaborate in duos or as solo performers. Each artist would contribute with instrumental backing, production work or backing vocals.
Their first songs recorded as a group was called “People Need Love”, and got some mild attention in Sweden. Their collaborative name was Festfolk at first, but they later changed it to ABBA, which is made up of the first letters of their names.
After Eurovision and the success of “Waterloo”, they released Waterloo the album. They went on their first European tour at the end of 1974, and continued to grow from there.
Several other albums ensued before Greatest Hits, a compilation album, came out in 1976. It peaked at No. 1 in the UK and ranked among the Top 50 spots on the US charts.